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E-mailgate probe shrouded in secrecy

Published: 
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan

Steps taken by the Integrity Commission to sue search engine and e-mail provider Google for information on Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s e-mails remain shrouded in secrecy, but it appears that the commission’s move has usurped the role and function of the Central Authority. The commission never requested the Central Authority to invoke the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) even though the authority is the designated agency for requesting help from its United States counterpart to obtain the information from Google.

Sources told the Sunday Guardian that the commission may have decided on a legal avenue other than the Central Authority because its requests to Google concerned Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. The Central Authority, though an independent body, falls under the purview of the Attorney General and is housed in the same building as his office. Of the three e-mails in question, two purportedly belong to Ramlogan and the other to the Prime Minister.

However, the commission is seeking “the contents of the communications to and from the [email protected] e-mail account for September 2012, to the extent such information is available...” In two brief telephone interviews on Friday and yesterday, Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon remained guarded on the issue. He said he knew nothing about sidelining the Central Authority and refused to comment further.

“Ma’am, we acted on the best advice and there is nothing further I can say on this matter,” he said. Pressed further as to who would be paying for the foreign law firm’s services, Gordon ended the interview. The commission has engaged the services of Gina Durham, a lawyer attached to San Franciso-based law firm DLA Piper. Durham is a partner in the firm and is also co-chair for the US Social Media Practice.

Gordon did add that he was hesitant to speak on the matter as he wanted it to “move forward, without a lot of baggage.” Head of Central Authority, Netram Kowlessar, has also remained silent on the issue of whether he was asked to invoke the MLAT to facilitate foreign assistance. “I cannot comment on this matter. I cannot confirm or deny if any request was made to the Central Authority,” Kowlessar said

He did confirm, however, that seeking foreign assistance for local investigations is the role and responsibility of the Central Authority. “The Central Authority is the designated authority for issuing, receiving and executing MLAT requests. I can only act once a request is made to me,” Kowlessar explained. Ramlogan is currently out of the country but responded to questions from the Sunday Guardian by e-mail.

“The Central Authority does not have any such power in law. Beyond that, I cannot say more as I have disqualified myself from the matter as head of the Central Authority,” Ramlogan said. The Sunday Guardian understands that the Integrity Commission took the decision to engage a foreign law firm back when there was still a quorum. Gordon recused himself from this matter on July 4, 2013, whereas the commission’s newest member, accountant Joel Edwards, resigned last month.

Key developments in probe
• On May 20, 2012, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley revealed the details of 31 “e-mails” in the House of Representatives during his motion of no confidence against the People’s Partnership Government and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

• The e-mails were purported to have been exchanges among several key office holders, including Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and Local Government Minister Suruj Rambachan, in an alleged plot to pervert the course of justice

• It was reported that some nine months before making his disclosure public, Rowley sent copies of the e-mails to former president Prof George Maxwell Richards. Rowley went public with the issue when Richards did not respond 

• During the months of discussion that followed, it was reported that Rowley met privately with Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon at his home before making the May 20 revelations in Parliament

• DCP Mervyn Richards was mandated to investigate the matter, but after a few months the investigation was put on the back burner